There’s been a lot of mobile phone designs throughout the years, but IMO the coolest and innovative ones came from the 2000s. A time when mobile phones started becoming popular and trendy and manufactures started experimenting with different designs. A time before the iPhone and Android phones homogenized the way that phones look into a singular black slab. Here are just a few designs I found quite interesting:
10. Nokia 7600 (2003)
I mean, just look at it. It looks like a leaf. Now this phone wasn’t going to win any awards for usability but it certainly was a unique design that’s for sure. So just for that creativity I put it at this spot here.
9. Nokia 7280 (2004)
Another ‘what is that’ Nokia design. It has a lipstick form factor, and you can see the tiny buttons on the side of it for dialing. I mean, just wow how did Nokia come up with designs?
8a. Nokia N93 (2007)
Get used to seeing Nokia on this list. They made ALOT of cool devices. The Nokia N90, N93 and N93i were phones that were basically camcorders, and used a swiveling display. This phone could be used in landscape mode and as a video camera, and is rather unique in this design. Only the Samsung Alias 2 tried something similar (but wasn’t exactly the same since it didn’t focus on video recording)
8b. Samsung Alias 2 (2009)
The Alias 2 has a similar form factor the N93 except instead of being a camcorder, it has a unique e-ink keyboard which shifts and displays different text depending on the application and the context, which is very cool. So Samsung solves the problem of needing different keys very elegantly and in a way that hasn’t really been replicated since.
7. Nokia 3250 (2005)
Another phone with a really cool and usable form factor, the 3250 and the Xpressmusic 5700 after it had a twist design that let you switch between the different functions – as a music player, camera or phone. Again with Nokia and their out of this world designs.
6a. Nokia E70 (2006)
Really this entire list could be just Nokia phones, but the E70 had a unique flipover keyboard design that lets you use the phone as a text messenger in landscape mode. I have to say – another one of Nokia’s truly unique design choices.
6b. Sony Ericsson P990 (2006)
Tied with the Nokia E70 and released the same year, is another phone that shares the E70’s unique way of incorporating both a numpad and a physical keyboard. The P990 does it by having a numpad on the front of the phone and then peeling it back to reveal a qwerty keyboard underneath. Very cool.
5a. Samsung Exclaim (2009)
The first non Nokia on this list. The Exclaim along with the Pantech Matrix and Helios Ocean, packed not one, but TWO sliders into the device with different keyboards – one with a qwery keypad and one with a numpad. Again – remember how the days of non multi touch phones had to think of inventive inputs?
5b. Motorola Flipout (2010)
Tied for the number 5 spot is another interesting phone, the Motorola Flipout – just look at the size – is a small mini phone that also has a mini qwerty keyboard that flips out! very neat
4a. TMobile Sidekick 3 (2006)
Looking more like a handheld gaming console than a phone, the Sidekick 3 had a display that swivels out, and d-pad and directional buttons for navigation. It also had a great keyboard for texting and messaging. Definitely a unique phone for unique times.
4b. Nokia E90 Communicator (2007)
Another Nokia device, this one was the last in a long line of Communicator devices, and carried the ability to open up into a secondary display on the inside. Again very cool retro-futuristic design that we haven’t really seen since. Wish Nokia would revisit this series sometime.
3a. Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (2011)
This one is a TIE because both these devices are not even trying to be phones at all even though they are – but they are more like handheld gaming devices that also took a phone call. The Xperia play was like a PSP Go that ran Android.
3b. Nokia Ngage (2004)
The Ngage was just a device that didn’t look like anything before or since and also looked like it had an identity crisis – like a gaming console that sprouted a numpad.
2. Motorola Aura (2008)
Motorola’s swivel display here made of swiss bearings, was a luxury device that hardly anyone really saw when it was released and obviously still rare today. But what a unique way of opening the phone, it’s a phone that could be considered more of like jewelry than actual electronics
1. Samsung Galaxy Fold (2019)
Yes the most modern device on this list is also #1. Why? because of the pure technology of it. When have we ever thought about a phone with 2 different displays that also turns from a phone into a tablet? It’s just amazing what this device has heralded. A new category of foldable computers. Along with the Huawei Mate X, Z Flip and Motorola Razr Fold, a completely new category of devices has emerged, and I think that’s pretty incredible.
Every 6 months I do an update on the state of my gadgets and what I use.
Google Pixelbook (2017) – replaces 2017 iPad Pro 10.5, 2017 Porsche Design Book One
I needed a light, portable machine for watching movies and doing media consumption to replace my aging iPad Pro, and yeah surprisingly went for a device made in the same year (2017). Why? because ChromeOS does do more than iPadOS still in terms of behaving as a desktop OS – even though iPads now added trackpad support – and the three main reasons why I bought it was 1) cheap ($500) 2) lightweight (2.4lbs) and 3) 3:2 aspect ratio display. There are many great options for 2 in 1s these days – Dell XPS 2 in 1 (heavier, more expensive), HP Spectre X360 (no 3:2 display, more expensive, heavier), Samsung Galaxy Chromebook (more expensive, no 3:2 display, terrible battery life), Samsung Galaxy Book Flex (more expensive, no 3:2 display), Microsoft SurfaceBook 3 (WAY more expensive, heavier), HP Dragonfly Elite (more expensive, no 3:2 display) and none of them actually matched the Pixelbook surprisingly – and if I found a 2in1 convertible which matched the Pixelbook’s 3:2 display and had similar weight but more expensive, that would be fine too, but everything is more expensive + lacking either the 3:2 display or it’s heavier.
I got this for a pretty decent price off of the Dell outlet store, so I thought yeah why not, my brother needed a decent gaming laptop so I sold him my Alienware m5 R1 and the R2 while not as expandable as the R1 and missing the extra numpad, does look substantially cooler with the white design, I must admit. Plus, yeah the usual specs: RTX 2060, Core i7 hexa core CPU, 1.25TB SSD, 16GB RAM. A decent secondary gaming computer and main portable gaming computer.
CyberpowerPC Syber C Xtreme (2019) – replaces 2015 Asus ROG G751, 2016 ThinkPad P70
The CyberPowerPC Syber C Xtreme is my main desktop gaming computer and the most powerful computer I have. It is essentially a built computer, with an AsRock motherboard, Intel Core i5 9600k CPU, 32gB Corsair RAM, 1TB Intel SSD, 3TB Seagate HDD, Corsair power supply, Zalmann cooler and Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU. This computer connects with my Asus ROG PG27UQ gaming monitor and Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard / Logitech G502 mouse for the ultimate home gaming experience.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro (2019) – replaces 2017 Google Pixel 2, Sony a6000 DSLR, DJI Osmo+
Back to an iPhone again you say? Well the main reason I went back to it is because of the camera system. I wanted something to replace my bulky Sony A6000 camera + lens + DJI Osmo and this is one of the two best camera phones on the market along with the Google Pixel 4. But unlike the Pixel 4, this has an ultra wide lens in addition to the standard wide lens and the telephoto lens so the iPhone 11 Pro is the best camera phone on the market with 3 lenses (I’m aware there’s the Huawei P30 Pro as well but its quite a big bigger). So this has become my main phone to replace my aging Pixel 2 as well as my main camera as well.
The Google Pixel 2 is actually my main secondary phone due to the Project Fi compatibility mostly, but the Motorola Razr has become my main music player device – I know, it’s an extremely expensive music player since it cost me even more than the iPhone 11 Pro – but its a really cool device, being the first vertically folding phone. I know many people will prefer the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip instead as its much more capable and spec wise much better, but Motorola has the better design for me, it’s a retro-futuristic implementation of an iconic device, and has a much bigger front touch screen than the Z Flip, which is important when using as a music player device. Since I mostly use my bluetooth Sony WF-1000XM3s now, not having a headphone jack is fine – and also makes my AK A&norma SR15 not that great of a device to use just for the bluetooth. I was using my Sony Xperia XZ1 compact as my main music player phone (which it was very capable at doing) until I got the Razr Fold.
Sony WF-1000XM3 (2019) – Replaces 2018 Astell&Kern Michelle
Believe it or not I have begun to embrace Bluetooth finally – and these wireless noise cancelling earbuds have replaced my A&K Michelles. Now do they sound as good? Of course not. But they are more convenient than having to unravel a messy amount of tangled wires every time to listen to something. And they are noise cancelling to boot. But it still has issues. Instead of having skipping sound issues with wires, now I have skipping sound issues with BT connection. Meh.. there’s nothing perfect out there I guess.
Sony WH-1000XM3 (2018) – Replaces 2017 Sony MDR-1000X These are my main closed back wireless/noise cancelling headphones which replaces my Denon MM400 (which were stolen at work) and my Bose Quietcomfort 25s (which broke) and Sony MDR-1000X (my previous NC cans). Compared to the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless and Bose Quietcomfort 35s, The sound quality is comparable to the Sennheisers but the noise cancellation is better. The noise cancellation is on par with the Bose and the sound quality is better, and its a lot more comfortable than the 1st gen MDR-1000X. It’s simply put one of the best wireless NC cans on the market right now.
Bose Soundlink Revolve (2017) – Replaces 2015 Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 This is my portable bluetooth speaker, replacing my Creative Soundblaster Roar 2. It is smaller than the Roar 2, although it lacks alot of the Soundblaster features it makes up for it by looking and being very simple, playing 360 degree audio and being quite loud for its size.
Now used as my main computer speakers replacing my Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 and Creative T4W speakers. It’s the first soundbar designed specifically for computer use. RGB lighting, bluetooth, 7.1 virtual surround and a bunch of other options, has a lot of inputs etc – what’s not to love? And it gets REALLY loud.
Klipsch the Three (2017)
These stereo speakers are really cool and retro looking especially with the Ebony wood finish. Not only does it support DTS Play-Fi, Bluetooth, phono and AUX inputs but I usually hook it up to my turntable as it has a built in phono preamp! I’ve compared the Klipsches with the Polk Audio, KEF, AudioEngine, Fluance, Focal and other speakers but the Klipsches are definitely the best value for the performance and looks
LG SL10YG + SPK8 (2020) – replaces 2018 Sony HT-ST5000 Soundbar
Focal Elear (2016) – replaces 2015 Audeze EL8
These are simply put, better than the Audeze EL8s in every way, so.. yeah, it’s replacing them.
Google Home Hub (2018) – replaces 2017 Yamaha Clock Radio
The Google Home Hub replaces my Yamaha Clock Radio as a smart alarm clock + digital photo frame.
Sony Action Camera AS300 (2016) – replaces 2014 GoPro Hero3+ Replaces my Sony Music Video recorder and GoPro Hero 3 as both my action camera and my wide angle camera that I can use for blogging, travel videos, action videos, etc and has optical image stabilization which no other action camera has! Also waterproof/dustproof as well and quite small, making it great for situations where my Osmo+ would be too heavy.
Main Computer collection 12.3″ 2400×1600 – Google Pixelbook (2017) – 7th gen Core i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD, 2.4lbs – light tablet/convertible 15.6″ 1920×1080 – Alienware m15 R2 (2020) – 9th gen Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1.25TB SSD, 4.7lbs – main gaming laptop CyberpowerPC Syber C (2019) – 9th gen Core i5, 32GB RAM, 4TB SSD+HDD, 20lbs – living room gaming pc
Backup phones: LG G8X (dual screen / rugged / media), iPhone SE (small compact), Blackberry Key2 (physical keyboard)
Video game systems: PS3, PS4 Pro, PSTV, Nvidia Shield Pro, Cybiko Xtreme, Nokia Ngage, PS Vita, New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, GPD Win 2, Nvidia Shield Portable, PSP Go, Atari VCS, Razer Phone 2
UMPCs: Onemix Yoga 3, GPD Micro, Toshiba Libretto W100, Vulcan Flipstart, Sony Vaio UX280, Sharp Netwalker, OpenPandora, Fujitsu UH900, Sony Vaio P, Fujitsu U820, OQO Model 2, Samsung Q1, King Jim Portabook
Backup Laptops: iPad Pro 10.5 (tablet), Porsche Design Book One (convertible), MacBook Pro 13 (macOS), ThinkPad TP25 (business laptop), Onkyo DX (dual screen netbook), ThinkPad X240 (Win 7), Thinkpad X61 (Win XP), Dell Latitude D600 (Win 98)
Watches: Seiko Kinetic, Bulova Joseph Bulova, Seiko Cocktail Time Honeycomb, Orient Sun&Moon LE, Junghans Meister Calendar, Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase, Oris GMT, Pebble Time Steel, Fossil Abacus, Casio DBC32 DataBank, Motorola Moto 360 3rd gen, Apple Watch Series 3, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Misc Tablets: Sony Tablet P, iPad Air, Lenovo Flex 20
PMPs: Philips PMC, iPod Nano, MS Zune, Creative Zen vision m, Astell&Kern A&Norma SR15, Archos 7, FiiO M5, Cowon V5W
Flip Phones: Samsung Galaxy Folder 2, Samsung Alias 2
Vertical Sliders: Sony Ericsson W995, Nokia N95, Samsung Exclaim, Samsung U900, Blackberry Torch 2
Unique form factor: HTC Universal, Motorola Flipout, Nokia E70, HTC Advantage X7500, Nokia E90, LG EnvTouch, Jelly Phone, Palm phone, Nokia XpressMusic 3250, Nokia E72, Motorola V70, Sony Ericsson P990, Toshiba G910, Nokia N93i, Yotaphone 3, Neptune Pine
PDAs: Palm TX, Sharp Zaurus, Sony UX50, Zipit Z2, Casio BE300, Sharp YO180P, HP iPAQ 210, Psion 5MX, HP Jornada 720, MS Kin 2, Sony Mylo 2
Unique OS: Amazon Fire Phone, ZTE Open C, Samsung Z1, HP Pre 3, Blackberry Porsche 9981, Blackberry Passport, Nokia N810, Nokia Lumia 1020, Nokia E7, HP Elite X3, Palm Treo 700p, Sony Xperia XA2 (Sailfish), LG Nexus 5 (Ubuntu Touch), Essential Phone (Lineage)
Displays: LG C9 OLED TV (main TV), Asus ROG PG258Q (gaming monitor), LG 29WK600 (ultrawide work monitor), MMT FHD Monitor2Go (portable monitor), Royole Moon (HMD), Oculus Rift (VR)
Cameras: Sony HDR-AS300 Action Cam
Headphones: Master and Dynamic ME03 (earphone), Monster Gratitude (earphone), A&K/JH Audio Michelle (IEM), Fender FXA5 (IEM), Sony WF-1000XM3 (wireless earbuds), Sony WH-1000XM3 (wireless/NC/closed), Focal Elear (studio/home/open)
Speakers: LG/Meridian SL10YG + LG SPK8 (home theater soundbar), Yamaha TSXB72 (alarm), Google Home Hub (picture frame/assistant), Creative SoundBlasterX Katana (Alienware), Klipsch the Three (turntable), PreSonus Eris (monitors), Bose Soundlink Revolve (portable), Sony LFS50G smart speaker (Kitchen), Sony Smart Bluetooth Speaker SP60 (alarm), Google Home Mini
On the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, people have been celebrating how revolutionary it was.. and yes, it does deserve all that praise. Steve Jobs was a brilliant marketing genius and visionary. Apple products haven’t been the same since he passed away. The Apple Watch (whats the use case?), the iPad Pro (stylus?), the new iPhones (no headphone jack?) and the new MacBook lineup (all USBC?) have all been criticized a lot since they came out and some design flaws like the camera bump in the new iPhones, no headphone jack, the elimination of magsafe and switch to all USBC etc have caused to people to wonder if Steve Jobs was alive if those things would have been approved.
Well, I’m not sure, but definitely I can say the presentations haven’t been as awe-inspiring with Tim Cook in charge. He’s more of a quiet delegator whereas Steve could light up the room and take charge with everything.
The iPhone brought *capacitative* touch computing to the massive. Previously, touch screens have been mostly resistive touch which made those devices very hard to use and required a stylus to use them. Back in the mid 2000s I did use some Palm devices, Pocket PCs and carried around a hefty Windows Convertible PC (yes they had those back then!) all which required styluses to use. It was a pain.
After the iPhone and iPad came out, every device got much easier to use, and just using the fingers was so simple and easy.
There are some things I miss about the pre-iphone phones though. I think people unfairly look at the old Blackberrys and Windows Mobile devices as crap compared to the iPhone but thats not exactly true. People forget that the original iPhone had no 3G, no copy+paste, you couldn’t attach images in emails, there was no selfie cam, there was no video capability or flash, no third party app store, etc. A lot of smartphones back then had all those features. No it wasn’t as easy to install a third party app onto a Pocket PC or Palm OS device as an iPhone’s App Store, but there definitely was a thriving marketplace for those old devices. It wasn’t as bad as people thought it was.
Moreover, I liked how every device looked so unique. You had flip phones, slider phones, swivel phones, dual slider phones, transforming phones, etc. These days everyone has the same phone.. iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy, etc the same black slabs everywhere. Back then there was very slim chances you and your friend had the exact same phone model. Here are some standouts (I own alot of these):
Yeah especially Nokia had a lot of really cool designs… we won’t be seeing these kind of designs anymore unfortunately.
And another thing is cellphone charms! remember those?
Young people might not even know that back then, phones had a hole where you could attach a charm to it.. that hole is not longer on modern smartphones so cellphone charms (the way people could customize their phones) have now been replaced by smartphone cases, which IMO isn’t quite as great. Yeah you can still customize your phone with a case, but its not the same as having a good old fashioned charm.
So yeah just pointing out some of the negative side effects of iPhone’s legacy..
In other news, I’m going to Korea next month and not a moment too soon.. been dying here of boredom having nothing to really do. my plan right now is to just save up money for next year. After the hassle of getting yet another work visa at the border, I don’t really plan on doing that again. I’m planning to leave in another year or so, and go back to either Korea or Canada. Yes, that means I’ll have to leave my current job, but unless I can work remotely it just won’t work out. I don’t get enough vacation time with my current job to get the freedom that I want.
Also, planning on selling my home too. There are a few reasons for this. Yes having a place in San Francisco is nice and all, but the housing market in SF is beginning to cool off, and for the price I could sell my apartment for, I could easily buy another place in the US (I’m thinking San Diego because of the weather and West coast location), AND have enough spare money to help me get another place in Vancouver Canada (with the help of a mortgage) as well. I’ll just rent out a storage locker while the unit is on sale and then just move things out when I get my new places. But yeah that’s my longer term plan. My best friend in San Francisco is in the same situation as me except he is 5 years older so its probably even more urgent for him, but he doesn’t want to stay here either. And besides him I have very few friends and very little reason to stay in SF. 90% of my friends are in Korea or Canada so it makes more sense to move to those places instead. I’m in the USA just for saving up money that’s it, but hopefully the US/CAD exchange rate remains the same next year else I’m losing a lot of money if I don’t exchange now…